From CS 160 User Interfaces Sp10
Main Idea: SpadesScoreKeeper
Virtual score-keeper for the popular card game Spades. This includes a running sum as game progresses.
Less time figuring scores, more time playing!
Spades is the #1 partnership game in America, surpassing even Bridge (Mindzine - Spades History and Evolution). It is played with 4 people, 1 deck of cards, and a scoresheet. Spades is easy to learn, but difficult to master since winning relies not only on skill, but also how well you communicate with your partner indirectly (using psychology and manipulation).
Despite Spades' popularity, surprisingly, there's a lack of resources to help players tabulate their gameplay scores. In Spades, scores are aggregated over many rounds with nontrivial rules, which justifies the value of an automated scoretracker.
Target User Group
This app is for anyone who plays Spades. This includes college students, WWII veterans, and your grandma. Although it is hard to describe a specific age, background, or nationality of the intended audience, there are a few assumptions we can make:
The target audience reads/write English (for simplicity's sake), they can see (do not need accessibility features), and they are familiar with the game of Spades.
The audience will also be less forgiving when navigating the UI. Spades is easier to learn than Bridge and the players who tend to enjoy Spades probably do not like steep learning curves.
And as is true for any game, the score needs to be correct. The audience will not tolerate errors in score-keeping.
For sensibility, this proposal's target audience can focus on Spades players in UC Berkeley, rather than nationwide.
You and your friends are playing Spades in the dorms when an argument arises. Your friend made a math mistake when calculating your score and you scream insults, slam your cards down, and stomp out the door. That's when you run into the RA (Resident Assistant) as she investigates the noise of your little party and discovers a strange woman in your room. Upon further investigation, you are in deep trouble because you hired a prostitute to be the fourth player since you were short one person.
To the point: Spades is a lot of fun, but score keeping is tedious and prone to human error. Spades is very popular, but there doesn't seem to be any score-keeping apps yet.
Besides making math mistakes, players can interpret the rules incorrectly, or do not have pen and paper at the moment. These are problems that this proposal addresses.
Problem Context and Forces
See Background for a description on the game of Spades.
Aspects of the situation largely depend on the users themselves. If the players are only concerned with the current and running score-totals, then the app should display just that. However, if the advanced players want to calculate probabilities based on previous occurances, a comprehensive score sheet would be better.
Other problem-forces are best explained through further research of gameplay. For example, if on average, a game takes 10 rounds, then the app may want to display up to 10 lines with an option to scroll if the game continues. Also, should the game be allowed to save? How often would a group of players want to stop and continue another day? While we're on the topic of gamestates, should the score-keeping rules be configurable? Would players want to manually change what the winning conditions are? These are all good questions that will affect how restrictive versus how clean the design will be. Further field studies are necessary.
Finally, this proposal will conclude with a study on similar applications and alternative score tracking methods to emphasize the lack of a good alternative for SpadesScoreKeeper.
Spades iPhone App
To reiterate, the proposed app is for score keeping, not playing the game. There are many apps to simulate Spades, but none to keep score of a real game.
As a side note, partnership games like Spades, Bridge, Hearts, and Euchre do not fair well when ported onto virtual environments. This is largely due to its psychological element of indirect communication (telling your partner not to "trump" without verbally saying so). Which largely explains why playing the card game in real life is still so appealing.
Pen and Paper
The traditional way to tally scores. This takes time and experience. It is also prone to human error.
This is usually a direct port from Pen and Paper to Excel with the running total being automatically tallied. But game mechanics like NIL, BLIND-NIL, and etc take more effort to correctly encode in excel.
This also assumes the Spades player has access to a computer and knows how to manipulate spreadsheets.
As there is not yet enough information to make good design decisions, here I present the most basic of features: